Lake Partner Program
ONTARIO MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT LAKE PARTNER PROGRAM
Starting in the spring and running until Labour Day, the Kawagama Lake Cottagers’ Association participates in the Ministry of the Environment’s (MOE) Lake Partner Program. The KLCA is one of many organizations that participate and Kawagama is one of about six hundred lakes being studied. The KLCA has been involved in this project since 1992.
Water Quality Factors
The Lake Partner Program focusses on water clarity, colour, temperature, phosphorus and, in recent years, calcium. Other factors you may have heard of, such as total coliforms, E. coli, benthic invertebrates, dissolved oxygen, etc., have been and/or may be investigated by other groups within the KLCA as necessary, but are outside the scope of this program.
Sampling for the program takes place at five locations around the lake: Station 1 in Minden Bay; Station 2 off Fishpole Pt. between the point and Dennison Island in the “big” lake; Station 3 off the North Shore just north of the narrows between Long Island and East Long Island; Station 4 in Fletcher Bay; and lastly, Station 5 at the East End of the lake, just north of the outflow from Slipper Falls.
Water samples are taken in the spring and throughout the remainder of the summer; measurements for clarity, colour and temperature are collected on a bi-weekly basis. The routine entails the following:
• Measuring water clarity using a 20 cm Secchi disc. The disc, divided into alternating black and white quadrants, is lowered into the lake and the depth at which the disc is no longer visible is recorded. (Sunlight penetrates to twice the Secchi depth. Most of the free-floating algae are suspended between the lake surface and twice the Secchi depth.);
• Recording water colour and temperature at a depth of 1 m;
• Miscellaneous information such as wind, wave, air temperature, date, and time of day;
• On the first outing in the spring, three water samples are taken at the Secchi depth determined above, to measure Total Phosphorus and, in recent years, Calcium. This is done at each of our five sample sites.
Results from the sampling are published each year in Reflections.
Phosphorus is the primary nutrient that critically influences the growth of algae. On shield lakes like Kawagama, the single sample in the spring, after ice-out and before lake turnover, provides an excellent predictor of conditions later in the summer.
Calcium is now being monitored, as it’s a crucial nutrient needed by all living organisms. It’s a particular necessity for those Daphnia/zooplankton at the lower end of our aquatic food chain as well as mollusks, clams and crayfish. Stressors like acid rain, the forestry harvesting lifecycle (harvested trees and their subsequent regrowth and harvest continually remove calcium from the ecosystem) and climate change are impacting calcium levels. Shield lakes, lakes in the Muskoka/Algonquin area have been identified as a potential concern as calcium levels approach or are at what are believed to be threshold survival levels for these organisms and aquatic animals.